The title of this post is taken from a book by the same name, written by C. John Caddoux, and originally published in London in 1919. It has been reprinted by Vance Publications in 2005, and can be found here.
Note the time and place of the original publishing of the book. This was just at the conclusion of the Great War, in the capitol of one of the belligerents. Certainly much of the work done by Caddoux was accomplished during this war, a war of most unspeakable destruction. He was writing at a time when nominally Christian people were killing other nominally Christian people by the millions.
As I have done with other books, I intend to write several posts on this topic as I read through the book.
I begin with a quote from the Foreword, written be W.E. Orchard:
… [war] is a subject that will not cease to vex the Church until we have decided either to make as unequivocal a condemnation of war as we have of slavery, or to abandon altogether any profession of whole-hearted allegiance to the Christian faith.
It is impossible to reconcile the teachings of Jesus with the attitude many Christians display towards war and the state. Laurence Vance provides the most thorough commentary on this prevailing attitude, for example see here and here. Vance is also behind the reprinting of this subject volume. The work by Caddoux is the most thorough examination of the views on war of the early Christians – those who most closely knew the teaching of Jesus and his disciples.
Among the many problems of Christian ethics, the most urgent and challenging at the present day is undoubtedly that of the Christian attitude to war….everywhere by overwhelming majorities Christian people have pronounced in word and act the same decision, viz. that to fight, to shed blood, to kill – provided it be done in the defence of one’s country or of the weak, for the sanctity of treaties or for the maintenance of international righteousness – is at once the Christian’s duty and his privilege. But only by an act of self-deception could anyone persuade himself that this is the last word the Christian conscience has to say on the matter.
Caddoux recognizes the potential shortcomings of the views of those in the first centuries of the church, describing the Christian mind as “relatively immature” and still in “the simplicity of its childhood.” Yet, he finds the enormous accomplishments of the church during this time more than enough to counter these shortcomings:
…the first three centuries were the period in which the work of the Church in morally and spiritually regenerating human life was done with an energy and a success that have never since been equaled, when the power springing from her Founder’s personal life pulsated with more vigor and intensity than was possible at a greater distance…
He begins his study of this early Christian period with an examination of the teachings of Jesus:
There is a sense in which it is true to say that Jesus gave his disciples no explicit teaching on the subject of war.
Caddoux goes on to explain that this should not be surprising, and such an ‘omission’ is not unique. For example, there was no record of any event which might afford Jesus to speak out regarding slavery. Jesus had little if any cause to speak directly about military service and war. He was living and working and teaching among Palestinian Jews, a population virtually unrepresented in the Roman military. No Jew could be compelled to military service.
Caddoux cites the many passages where Jesus speaks in terms of non-violence and even passivity. Jesus reaffirmed the commandment to not kill, for example. His Sermon on the Mount offered non-resistance as good and right. Most compelling, Jesus did not use or advocate political or coercive means to achieve His ideals:
In the one corner of the Roman world where the passion for an independent national state still survived, he had no use for that passion.
That force could be applied through political means did not sanitize the use of force for Jesus. He found His calling through teaching.
Was not Jesus tempted by Satan – in fact, offered the whole world? Caddoux suggests that the only way this could have been achieved was through military violence:
…was he not in any case invested by God with supreme authority over men, and was it not his life’s work to bring in the Kingdom as speedily as possible? Assuming that the use of military force did not appear to him to be in itself illegitimate, why should he not have used it? Had he not the most righteous of causes? Would not the enterprise have proved in his hands a complete success? Would he not have ruled the world much better than Tiberius was doing?